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KPFA airwaves still a battle

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet Staff
Thursday October 26, 2000

More than 200 people turned out in the Wednesday morning downpour in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Way studios of KPFA chanting, as they did during the summer of 1999, “Who’s station? Our station!”  

As during that summer, the protesters were demonstrating over claims that Pacifica Foundation, which governs the five Pacifica stations and holds their licenses, “gags” programmers, dictating what they can and cannot say. 

This time, the protesters were not focused on local programming but on national radio news-magazine co-host Amy Goodman who co-anchors Democracy Now!, a hard-hitting unabashedly left leaning show that has won awards for reporting on police brutality, Chevron’s role in Nigeria, East Timor and more.  

Speakers claimed Goodman is being micro-managed by her Pacifica bosses and saddled with new work rules, which Goodman describes in an e-mail as a “desire of management to reign in and exert political control over Democracy Now!” 

Demonstrations were held Wednesday at each of the five Pacifica stations. 

“This is about a political housekeeping purge,” noted author and media critic Norman Solomon told the morning rally, which spilled off the sidewalk and onto the street.  

“They’re trying to implement an ideological litmus test. If you’re more progressive than Al Gore, get off our air waves,” he said. 

Goodman describes the situation in an e-mail distributed by Northern California Pacifica board member Tomas Moran. 

She talks about going into a meeting in mid October with the Pacifica program director and executive director which she said she believed was to “resolve a series of escalating conflicts which have erupted in recent months between (program director Stephen) Yasko, Executive Director Bessie Wash, myself and the Democracy Now! staff....Instead we were suddenly faced with this list of ‘ground rules’ and the threat to fire me.” 

Among the rules is a demand to present a list of topics for shows for the next week and to accept only speaking engagements that have been preapproved by the program director.  

Goodman further claims that two new producers are being imposed on her and co-host Juan Gonzales without their approval. “The two producers – our only producers – are the heart of this show,” Goodman writes. “It is clear from all of management’s actions, they are using this opportunity to change the political direction of the program.” 

Pacifica’s public relations department’s voice mailbox in Washington, D.C., was full Wednesday and Executive Director Bessie Wash was traveling and unavailable for comment.  

Pacifica did issue a statement on the matter on Monday, noting that Democracy Now! “has become one of our most valued programs.” 

The Pacifica memo further asserted: 

• It has not dictated Democracy Now! programming, nor has it censored the programming. “Comments were not presented to Ms. Goodman as directives. Such input is part of the collaborative radio production process.” 

• Goodman’s bringing Ralph Nader onto the floor of the Republican Convention in order to get his live commentary from there and using a borrowed press pass, “put all of Pacifica in danger of not receiving credentials for the Democratic Convention,” the memo said, explaining that is why management did not allow Democracy Now! hosts to get Democratic Convention press passes. 

• Contrary to claims, Goodman has been part of conversations in the process of choosing new producers. It is intended for both Goodman and Yasko to interview candidates together. 

• Pacifica has not tried to limit Goodman’s free speech, but asked her to inform the Foundation of Pacifica-related speaking activities and to get approval. “National radio hosts are Pacifica ambassadors and intrinsically represent the organization at an function where they make public remarks.” 

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